Your Emergency Communication Plan

You never know when an emergency might occur—and where you might be when it does. What happens if a disaster strikes when you and your family members are in different locations? How will you reach each other? Where will you meet up? A good emergency communication plan will ensure you can get in touch, regardless of the disaster.

With so many facets of Emergency Planning to think about, many people overlook the importance of an Emergency Communication Plan in their preparedness efforts. We take it for granted that we can call loved ones on their cell phones. But that, very possibly, may not be the case. You need alternative plans that include the possibility of power outages, cell network failures, and internet blackouts. If those are the case, you will also want to be sure to have an emergency radio, so you can receive incoming news alerts.

Here are seven steps you can take to ensure you can communicate and reunite with loved ones if you are separated during an emergency:

1. Establish several different modes of communication. The more methods you have, the more likely you are to reach one another. If one method fails, you can try another.

Cell Phones
Most disaster agencies recommend NOT trying to use your cell phone in an emergency (if phones even work). After disasters, cell phone networks often become overwhelmed, and calls can’t get through. Worse, bona fide emergency calls cannot get through because everyone is trying to check in on their loved ones. If you are able to use your phone, keep your calls short. Also, keep a portable solar power bank on hand to power your phone for emergency communications if the power is out.

Text, Social Media, and Email Messaging
Text messaging doesn’t use as much network bandwidth as calling, so texts are more likely to go through even when the network is congested. Texting and social media messaging, as well as emailing, won’t tie up the network like calling, which is why they are recommended for communication. If you create a group on your phone in advance, you can send a single message to everyone at one time. (Just make sure you know your usernames and passwords in case you need to access your profiles or email account from someone else’s computer or phone.)

Two-Way Radios
Two-way radios may be the most reliable communication method in significant disasters that include power grid outages and cell phone system failures. Each family member can keep a radio in their car or at work, school, or home. Many walkie-talkies are capable of transmitting signals over fairly long distances. There are multiple options on the market—some simpler and some more sophisticated.
Ham Radio
Ham radios require licensing and training and are not generally feasible for the average family; however, it is wise to know people who ARE licensed and trained, and who might be able to help send messages for you in the case of an emergency.
2. Program an ICE number on each family member’s phone and write it on a physical card in each person’s wallet and/or backpack. If family members are injured or incapacitated, they won’t be able to make contact. For this reason, you should program an In Case of Emergency (ICE) number in everyone’s phone, and place a card with that number in their wallet or backpack (for schoolchildren). Emergency responders know to look for this number.
3. Have a printed hard copy of your close and important contacts. Give copies of your emergency contact list to everyone in your family to keep in their wallets, purses, or school backpacks. Keep backup copies in your car, your desk at work, at home, etc. Remember to update contact information on your emergency contact list as needed. Your list should include:
  • Phone numbers of family members, friends, close contacts
  • Important numbers like their work, school, daycare numbers, etc.
  • Address(es) of your family’s pre-arranged meeting places
  • Medical providers and other important services

4. Establish a Central Contact in Advance
This should be someone located out of your area/state. During local disasters, local phone and cell networks may be overloaded. If you cannot reach family members through any of the above methods, then you will all call the central contact instead. They can give each family member news and updates each time they call. Keep calling until the family is reunited.
5. Identify a pre-arranged place for family members to meet up
Depending on the type of emergency, you should have more than one meeting point planned besides your home, which of course would be your primary meeting point. You should also have a neighborhood meeting point, where you would go if your home was unsafe, but the entire neighborhood was not affected. Next would be a safe, regional meeting point in your city or town, where you would meet if you couldn’t go home safely, which would be a central location for your family members to assemble (e.g., church, hospital, school, workplace, etc.). And, finally, you will want to establish an out-of-town meeting place, where you would meet if the entire area were unsafe, and you were unable to get in touch or reconnect close to home.

6. Include your children in the plan. Make sure you know the emergency procedures established by your kids’ schools/daycares. (They should already have a plan in place about where students will be located and how parents can retrieve them in the case of an emergency.) Teach children to memorize their full name, address, your full name, phone numbers, and any other pertinent information and numbers they are old enough to remember.
7. Pray and practice! Bathe your communication plan in prayer, and be encouraged that the Lord is with you both now and (especially) in an emergency: “The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life; The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever” (Psalm 121:7-8, NLT). Make sure everyone in your household understands the plan, and that you all practice it regularly so you can execute it calmly and clearly in an emergency.
Next Week’s Topic: Emergency Equipment and Tools


HF Preparedness Leadership Team

Action Steps:
  • My family and I have identified primary and secondary modes of communication that we will use in the case of an emergency.
  • Our family members have ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers programmed into our phones and written on cards in our wallets and/or backpacks.
  • We have hard copies of emergency contacts that we can easily access if our cell phones are disabled.
  • We have established neighborhood, regional, and out-of-town meeting places, and a central contact, in case we are unable to connect with one another at our own home.
  • We have helped our children memorize their and our pertinent information, and we have a plan to collect them if an emergency arises when they are at school, daycare, or elsewhere.
  • We have practiced our Emergency Communication Plan and everyone is familiar and comfortable with it.
Sample Communication Plans for Adults and Kids:
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